How can I afford to eat a $30 chicken?

I've been thinking a lot about those chickens that will be moving into my freezer in a few days. You see, I don't make anywhere close to a six figure salary, and with the dogs, the mortgage, the renos, etc...  I'm not destitute by any means, but I'm also not dripping with cash.

Kinda like most people.

So how can I, how can any of us, afford sustainable, humane, local meat, that costs 2-3x as much as grocery store meat?

Easy.  And while I'm not taking part in the October Unprocessed Challenge, I am going to be posting a bit more on food, especially frugal food, this month.

Today's frugal food post is again poultry related.  And of course, since it's Thanksgiving here, it's all about turkey!

My sister is hosting Thanksgiving this year, and she cooks her turkey ahead of time.  This year she did two birds, and had no interest in the carcasses.  Disclaimer:  she often makes soup, but she had just roasted a turkey a few weeks ago and made a big batch of soup, so decided she wasn't interested in turkey soup again this soon.  (Note:  roasting a turkey, especially if you are feeding 6+ people on a regular basis, is not just a holiday thing!)

She asked me if I wanted them, and of course, I jumped at the chance.  Free food!

This was what I did yesterday:  put each carcass in a stock pot and added fresh water, a bay leaf or two, a few peppercorns,  and onion and a carrot to each pot.  They simmered just until the bones fell apart.  I strained the solids out, and put the stock back on the stove.  I sorted through the bones, picking off all the meat, and tossing the bones and veggies back into the stock.  I added a splash of white vinegar (probably about 1/2 a cup) to the stock, then simmered it for another few hours.

Huh?  Why do I do stock in two parts?  I find if you simmer the meat too long, you get mush.  And I also find if you don't simmer the bones long enough, you get poultry-flavored water, not stock :)

By doing it in two parts, you get nicely-textured meat, along with rich, flavourful stock.  And adding the vinegar is supposed to help leach some calcium out of the bones, making it even more nutritious.

I ended up with around 8 L (~34 cups) of stock and enough meat to fill a 2.3 L (~9.5 cups) Corning-ware dish.  That is a lot of meat - and it was free.  Even if these weren't, um, "hand-me-down" carcasses, doing this with your own bird is also essentially free.  It's meat that would be thrown out - and what a waste!!

And this is what will become of all this free food:

1. 8 cups of stock, plus 1/4 of the meat, plus veggies and pasta = turkey soup for lunches this week.
2. 8 cups of stock, plus 1/4 of the meat, plus veggies and rice = turkey soup for the freezer for future lunches.  Rice tends to freeze better than pasta, thus the pasta for eating now, the rice for eating later.  If you have some wild rice, it is great in turkey soup.
3. 16 cups of stock frozen for later use.
4. The rest of the stock will be thickened with a rue and some seasoning to make "gravy".  This will be added to the rest of the meat, then placed in an oven-proof dish.  Topped with some veggies and mashed potatoes (either sweet or regular), and hey presto, you have turkey shepherd's pie!  I came up with this dish the one year I roasted a turkey whilst living alone - you get REALLY creative after a while trying to use up that much meat!  I'll use sweet potatoes (from the CSA) for this - I love the combo of turkey and sweet potatoes.  If you were doing this with Thanksgiving leftovers, stuffing makes a great addition too.  This also freezes really well, as long as it's in a sealed container.  Then simply toss in the oven to re-heat for a quick supper later on!

So, two free turkey carcasses results in about 24 "extra" meals, for the cost of a few hours of time (most of which is letting the stock cook) and some cheap pantry items like potatoes, pasta, rice and vegetables.

Maybe about $5.00 worth of food?  For 24 meals?

You can't get much more frugal than that.

So see if you can't score a turkey carcass (or two) this year.  And if you don't luck out at Thanksgiving, well, Christmas is coming...  

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